BILLINGS — Jess Lockwood left no doubts on his plans for 2018.
He let the world know with this tweet:
“Lots of people after accomplishing their life dream are satisfied. I’m not. I’m as motivated and hungry as I’ve ever been.
Don’t bet against him.
On Nov. 5, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the 20-year-old Lockwood became the youngest and the first from Montana to win the Professional Bull Riders World Championship.
It’s a goal he had been pursuing since the day he turned 18 and left home in September of 2015.
For that reason, Lockwood has been selected the 406mtsports.com and Billings Gazette Sportsperson of the Year for 2017.
The young rancher from Volborg — located 33 miles north of Broadus — earned $1.525 million, which included a $1 million bonus for winning the PBR year-end world title.
It was the ultimate high for a roller-coaster season.
“I don’t think it’s still sunk in yet,” he said in mid-December of his gold buckle victory. “Maybe when we got to New York (Jan. 7-8) it will then.”
Lockwood finished his second season at the PBR’s highest level where he started: Atop the Built Ford Tough Series standings.
He opened 2017 by winning New York City, one of the PBR’s major events for more than $100,000. Lockwood also won BFTS events in Sacramento, California, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Austin, Texas.
But he also paid the price competing in the world’s most dangerous sport. Lockwood missed five weeks in the first half of the schedule with a torn groin and was knocked unconscious by SweetPro’s Bruiser at Springfield, Missouri, in the second half. SweetPro’s Bruiser was selected both the PBR and PRCA bull of the year.
Lockwood also suffered four broken ribs, a punctured lung and lacerated kidney at Uniondale, New York, in September. That was followed by a stay in a Bismarck, North Dakota, hospital, hooked up to an IV while recovering from pneumonia.
Despite the bumps and bruises, Lockwood never wavered from his goal.
“I really don’t pay attention that much to what other guys are doing,” he said of the BFTS standings. “It all comes down to your bull riding and how you do.”
Lockwood regained his riding mojo with a sizzling summer, which included winning a lower-level tour event in Binford, North Dakota, and winning the first three rounds of pool competition at the Calgary Stampede.
“Summer was fun,” he recalled. “It’s my favorite part of the year. It’s hot and you get to hang out with all your friends. It also gets you back to thinking why you started this. To have fun.”
Lockwood also rode three of four bulls at the Real Time Pain Velocity Tour Finals, held prior to the PBR World Finals. “I got that confidence and it carried through the rest of the week,” he said.
The 2016 PBR rookie of the year — his first BFTS win was Billings in April of 2016 — was 0 for 5 at his first World Finals a year ago.
He made sure it didn’t happen again.
Lockwood came to Las Vegas fourth in the BFTS standings. He was bolstered all week by a tight-knit group of family and friends.
With his father Ed Lockwood pulling his bull rope every night and his ribs wrapped tight — “Everything held,” said the younger Lockwood — he regained the standings lead early on.
And there he stayed.
Lockwood gave himself a week off after winning the world title before resuming workouts and hot yoga in the shed he built at the family’s 10,000-acre ranch. “More stretching than anything else,” he said.
Lockwood also spent a few days training with the United States National Freestyle Wrestling team in Colorado Springs and has been helping the wrestling team at Powder River County High School in Broadus.
“I really believed wrestling helped my bull riding,” said Lockwood, who won the Class B-C state title at 103 pounds as a freshman. “The discipline, the work ethic you need to be successful.”
Lockwood was in Las Vegas in December for the National Finals Rodeo, watching his aunt, Lisa Lockhart, compete in barrel racing. “I like this part a lot better,” he said of being a fan.
Now the 2018 PBR season approaches. It is the 25th Anniversary Tour of the PBR.
And it is a young man from Montana who leads the next generation of bull riders.
“I guess the next thing would be to go for a world championship every year,” Lockwood said.